Six Romantic Asian Backdrops

January 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Attractions, General Fun, Nature

There’s no doubt that Asian is the land of inspiration and romance. It has often been the place for honeymoons, destination weddings, one night stands and I don’t know specifically but I bet a handful of marriage proposals too! But where to go to find that spark that will make your heart skip a beat? Here are six great backdrops – but no matter where you go, be sure to head off the beaten path, walk a little further, and see if you can find that perfect spot to lose everyone else and maybe find yourself.

Photo credit - farbfilm

Photo credit - farbfilm

Halong Bay, Vietnam

I know what you’re thinking – how cliché. But try taking a sunset cruise along Halong Bay – it is one of those experiences that is hard to forget. The bay is one of Vietnam’s crowded UNESCO World Heritage sites, so why not book the junk boat that actually spends the night in the bay and get away from it all? The junk boat to Cat Ba Island is also nice and a little less overpopulated. You can get by in Halong Bay on the cheap, but don’t – spend that little bit extra and you’ll get a lot more for your money, particularly when it comes to excursions and anything out on the water.

Photo credit - nurpax

Photo credit - nurpax

Jeju Island, South Korea

One of the stops in this island will definitely make your heart skip a beat – and give you a good giggle in the process. Some things are “oh gads, only in Asia” and Jeju Loveland is one of them. It’s a theme park dedicated to sex. From the phallus gardens to the interactive exhibits (link is NSFW!), you and your lover will see in 3D every sexual position possible. Skip the kama sutra and see this stuff in action! Other than that, Jeju Island is a popular honeymoon spot for Koreans, so once you’ve had your laughs get out and explore the island’s other natural attractions. Hike towards the top of Sunrise Peak for a mesmerizing sunset, or head towards one of the many beautiful waterfalls adorning the island.

Photo credit - tboothhk

Photo credit - tboothhk

Stanley, Hong Kong

Hong Kong is great, but the hustle and bustle (not to mention the pollution) aren’t exactly romantic bliss. I prefer to cross the island and head to Stanley, a very quaint little fishing village. Spend a few hours exploring the markets, then sit and watch the sunset. It’s dreamy. Stanley has some excellent restaurants, including a few fabulous dim sum shops, so come hungry. There are some walking trails in the area and other little towns to explore, so you don’t have to spend your time confined in Stanley itself.

Photo credit - Dave B

Photo credit - Dave B

Siem Reap, Cambodia

So Siem Reap is no tourism secret – in fact, it’s so popular it is sinking back into the ground. Not cool. But hire an air conditioned van (or a tuk-tuk, if you prefer the wind in your hair and can stomach the bumpy roads) and go off exploring into the countryside. The Angkor Wat complex is absolutely massive and few tourists manage to get very far off the beaten path. It’s a shame because some of the temples are just as amazing and a sight less busy. Check out Banteay Srei, one of the more popular ones but still more quiet. The carvings in the stone are so intricate, you won’t believe it is stone. Inspiring.

Photo credit - ManojVasanth

Photo credit - ManojVasanth

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

The state of Rajasthan in India is the country’s largest and has many unique sights to visit for romantic inspiration. From the Great Indian Desert to the hundreds of massive palaces and temples, you could spend weeks finding yourself in Rajasthan. I suggest a few special days in Jaipur, the state capital. It’s known as the pink city, and is one of India’s first planned cities. Because of this, I think, the views are just endless, from the Albert Hall Museum to the Jal Mahal or the Amber Fort. You’ll be blown away by the color and never look at the world the same. You don’t have to build your lover a temple, but you can take them to one.

Eastern and Oriental Express, Southeast Asia

Just saying the worlds orient express conjures up visions of sensual seduction while you glide across the rails. The reality is that while this is one of very few ultra-deluxe trains, there are more than one. But the Asian version is called the Eastern and Oriental Express and it has a number of routes between the cities of Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Vientiane, and Chiang Mai. What better way to spend a romantic retreat than by tucking away into the luxury of this iconic train between visits to any of these classic Asian destinations?

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Oriental Winters

September 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Attractions, magazine, News

Winter beckons! White, powdery snow; cool frosty air; and the cheer of Christmas. But here in Asia the celebration of winter is uniquely different, one that we are going to unearth in this issue of Unearthing Asia – the magic of Oriental Winters.

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In this issue
+ Japan + China + Taiwan
+ Truly Malaysian Spa
+ Urban Living – Singapore
+ Siem Reap Top Attractions
+ Melbourne Arts Galore
+ 12 Things to do in Bali
+ Historic Duolun Road
+ New Zealand Food Trail

7 Top Attractions in Siem Reap

December 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Exotic South East, Feature Highlights

Siem Reap, a former outpost of a pariah state run by the bloody Khmer Rouge, has risen admirably into an international tourist destination, one that boasts the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and host to one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Only twenty years ago, the region was still off limits to tourists, its local denizens ruled over by terror and fear of the atrocities of one of the bloodiest regime in the world.

Now, Siem Reap is a booming city alongside the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, seeing almost a million international passengers coming and going at its international airport in 2007. While Angkor Wat remains the top drawing factor of the area, the city of Siem Reap itself is not lacking in attractions, boasting some of the best hotels, restaurants, museums and galleries in the region.

Photo credits - tylerdurden1

Photo credits - tylerdurden1

Awe Inspiring Angkor Wat

The Angkor Wat is the biggest, best preserved, most intricately designed and awe inspiring temple in Indochina, a jewel in the crown of ANgkor’s extensive palace complex. It is a source of national pride and international renown, covered with beautiful bas relief carvings depicting the Ramayana epic of Hinduism. Like most temples in Asia, it is best seen at the crack of dawn or during sunset, when the colorful sun-lit sky accentuates the five towers for an exquisite scene.

Photo credits - Taiger808

Photo credits - Taiger808

The Number Nine

To know Asia is to understand the continent’s superstitions, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the massive Angkor Thom, a temple fixated with the number nine. The pronouncement for “nine” is similar to the word for “development”, and almost everything on the temple can equate to this number – 54 carved towers, 216 faces on the towers, 54 gods on the left of the entrance, and 54 demons on the right – all those numbers adding up to 9.

Photo credits - cornstaruk

Photo credits - cornstaruk

Other Temples

One of Angkor’s best known temples is Ta Prohm, a picturesque temple boasting hundred-year-old giant roots that thread themselves around the temple. This made it a very photogenic subject, and one that is a big hit with the tourists. Bayon is known as the “Temple of Faces”, and once you’ve been there you’ll easily know why – as you climb the steep stone steps and make you way into the inner sanctum of the temple, looking up you are struck by the hundreds of large stone faces looking down upon you. There is also the Banteay Srei, a temple filled with awe-inspiring elaborate carvings covering every single inch of stone there. Even with today’s technology it is almost unbelievable that such precise and intricate patterns and sculpture can be made from stone.

Photo credits - jimdavidson

Photo credits - jimdavidson

River Revitalization

Around 50 km north east of Siem Reap is the River of Thousand Lingas, an impressive river streaming into the Siem Reap River along its riverbed, which had been carved with thousands of lingas – phallic symbols prevalent in Cambodia. They are estimated to have been carved between 1100 to 1300 as a form of fertility ritual, and made for a perfect place to enjoy Siem Reap’s tropical beauty.

Photo credits - Allie_Caulfield

Photo credits - Allie_Caulfield

Tonle Sap

Siem Reap boasts not only one of the world’s most famous archeological sites, but also one of Southeast Asia’s biggets and most colorful lake. Tonle Sap is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a marine wildlife reserve that has some of the world’s rarest birds and at the same time is the only river in the world whose flow of water changes twice a year.

Photo credits - Mai…

Photo credits - Mai…

Contemporary Art

The fine arts scene in Siem Reap is burgeoning, you can find anything from cheap souvenirs to luxurious fine-arts. Some of the highlights for the arts lovers include: The McDermott Gallery, where world-class photography of Angkor and its surrounding region are on display; The Red Gallery, where the most extensive collection of contemporary Cambodian art is hosted; and The Asia Craft Center, which stocks lots of unique Cambodian and Southeast Asian traditional handicrafts.

Photo credits - Travel Aficionado

Photo credits - Travel Aficionado

Colonial Architecture

Siem Reap has a whole host of colonial buildings left by the French which are now put to pretty good use. Set among lazy boulevards, the architecture is now home to some of the best hotels, restaurants and galleries, such as the Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor, the city’s first ever luxury hotels established in 1932. The proud hotel boasts an array of VIP guests, including King Norodom Sihanouk, Charlie Chaplin, the Sultan of Johor and even Jacqueline Kennedy.

Like this list? You may also enjoy our list of Things To Do in Hong Kong and Top Attractions in Hokkaido. On a final note, do check out as well our latest feature – the magazine. Check it out online or download a PDF copy!

Unearthing Asia now offers travel packages throughout the region of Asia. Check out our promotional offers of Luxury Private Villas in Bali, perfect for Honeymooners or those looking for a little romance. We also have great offers for hotels in Singapore, resorts in Phuket and many more.

About the Author. Trangh Nguyen. Come to Vietnam, enjoy a cup of bia hoi in the street restaurant, ride moto, cruise in the labirynth of Mekong Delta and Halong Bay. Come with us and share the delight of one of the most beautiful country in Asia. We welcome you with our heart, hospitality and excellent cuisine.

3 Scenic Temples of Siem Reap

June 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Exotic South East, Nature

The temples surrounding the once tiny town of Siem Reap are no longer off the beaten track. Nowadays, everybody has an acquaintance who has trekked to see the enormous towers of Angkor Wat, which has somewhat become Cambodia’s de facto flagship temple – it graces the center of the Cambodian flag and it is also on the label of the “national beer”, Angkor Beer.

But there are hundreds of temples in the Siem Reap, in various states of repair or disrepair. Unless you’re visiting for several weeks, there is no possible way to see all of them. However, here are three of my top favorites that I suggest you make time for. I’ll skip Angkor Wat for two reasons: 1) it wasn’t one of my favorites and 2) it is such a historically-significant and massive temple complex you can’t miss it anyway.

Bayon, temple of faces. Photo credit - shapeshift.

Bayon, Temple of Faces. Photo credit - shapeshift.

Bayon, temple of faces. Photo credit - Andy Hayes.

Bayon, Temple of Faces. Photo credit - Andy Hayes.

Bayon

Bayon is known as the ‘Temple of Faces,’ and once you’ve been there you’ll easily know why – as you climb the steep stone steps and make you way into the inner sanctum of the temple, looking up you are struck by the hundreds of large stone faces looking down upon you. Although they are all smiling, I felt a bit of an ominous electric buzz in the air, perhaps waiting for the builders of these stone statues to come walking in from the forest. Although much of this temple is in ruin, it is still easy to imagine what an awesome sight it would have been when initially constructed – truly an earthly home fit for the gods.

Ta Phrom. Photo credit - Chi King.

Ta Phrom. Photo credit - Chi King.

Ta Phrom. Photo credit - Andy Hayes.

Ta Phrom. Photo credit - Andy Hayes.

Ta Prohm

If you’ve seen the Tomb Raider, a handful of the temple scenes were filmed here at Ta Prohm, and it didn’t take any special effects to give the film its eerie, surreal qualities. The temple is in fairly poor shape and over the centuries trees have taken root in the temple walls. Conservationists have left the trees in place because they are in so deep they actually strengthen the temple and to remove them would destroy those remaining pieces.

Ta Prohm has a magical effect similar to Bayon in that it feels as though whomever built it or lived there might be just out for a walk and to explore the hidden spaces is a violation of trust. Find a quiet corner, relax and just soak up Ta Prohm’s mystical qualities.

Banteay Srei. Photo credit - Jon2.

Banteay Srei. Photo credit - Jon2.

Banteay Srei. Photo credit - Andy Hayes.

Banteay Srei. Photo credit - Andy Hayes.

Banteay Srei

For the first ten minutes you spend at Banteay Srei, you’ll continue to stare in awe at the elaborate carvings covering every single inch of stone, wondering if they’re actually made of wood. Even with today’s technology it is almost unbelievable that such precise and intricate patterns and sculpture can be made from stone. This temple, unlike many of the others, is made red sandstone that is easier to carve and gives the complex a wonderfully golden-reddish hue.

Many of the entrances and towers of the temple are well preserved and still intact (watch your head – the doorways are quite short!) but some of the statues alongside the stairways are actually replicas, the originals stolen or in museums. If there were an art contest, Banteay Srei would win hands down for originality and attention to detail.

If You Go

You’ll need a ticket to get into any of the temples themselves. You can find more information about the ticketing process over on the APSARA Authority website, which manages temples. Bayon and Ta Prohm are in the nearby vicinity of Angkor Wat, whereas Banteay Srei is about half an hour’s ride along bumpy roads out of Siem Reap.

If you book a personal guide (which I recommend), you will likely travel via air conditioned private car. Other options include hiring a tuk-tuk driver for the day (have your hotel book this for you to get a reputable driver) or cycling the entire route (not recommended in extremely hot weather).

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Experiences.